Friday, August 24, 2007

Henry VIII and his Primer for western Catholicism

The Primer authorized by Henry VIII in 1545 for England commends a reduced western Catholicism

In 1545 the religion of the Church of England was western Catholicism without the Papacy and in gradual movement towards the use of English in a limited way so that laity could understand profitably the Faith.

This movement is illustrated by the wording of the Injunction which accompanied the religious Primer (a basic introduction) authorized by Henry VIII towards the very end of his long reign.

Children are to learn off by heart in English the Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary so that they know their faith and duty and have piety.

Other Primers (Protestant and traditional Catholic) were forbidden so that there could be uniformity in basic Christianity in the land.

Eight years later the son of Henry VIII, Edward VI, also authorized a Primer but this one had no “Hail Mary” and it commended a reformed Catholicism rather than scaled-down western Catholicism without the Papacy. In it justification by faith alone leading to faith working by love is clearly presented.

Below is the Injunction which introduces Henry’s Primer.



An Injunction given by the King our Sovereign Lord's Most Excellent Majesty for the authorizing and establishing the use of this Primer.

HENRY the Vlllth, by the grace of God King of England, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and of the Church of England, and also of Ireland, in earth the Supreme Head ; to all and singular our subjects, as well archbishops, bishops, deans, archdeacons, provosts, parsons, vicars, curates, priests, and all other of the clergy; as also all estates and degrees of the lay fee, and teachers of youth within any our realms, dominions, and countries, greeting.

Among the manifold business, and most weighty affairs appertaining to our regal authority and office, we much tendering the youth of our realms, (whose good education and virtuous bringing up redoundeth most highly to the honour and praise of Almighty God,) for divers good considerations, and specially for that the youth by divers persons are taught the Pater Noster, the Ave Maria, Creed, and Ten Commandments, all in Latin, and not in English, by means whereof the same are not brought up in the knowledge of their faith, duty, and obedience, wherein no Christian person ought to be ignorant: and for that our people and subjects which have no understanding in the Latin tongue, and yet have the knowledge of reading, may pray in their vulgar tongue, which is to them best known; that by the mean thereof they should be the more provoked to true devotion, and the better set their hearts upon those things that they pray for: and finally, for the avoiding of the adversity of primer books that are now abroad, whereof are almost innumerable sorts, which minister occasion of contentions and vain disputations rather than edify; and to have one uniform order of all such books throughout all our dominions, both to be taught unto children, and also to be used for ordinary prayers of all our people not learned in the Latin tongue; have set forth this Primer, or book of prayers in English, to be frequented and used in and throughout all places of our said realms and dominions, as well of the elder people, as also of the youth, for their common and ordinary prayers; willing, commanding, and straightly charging, that for the better bringing up of youth in the knowledge of their duty towards God, their prince, and all other in their degree, every schoolmaster and bringer up of young beginners in learning, next after their A, B, C, now by us also set forth, do teach this Primer, or book of ordinary prayers unto them in English; and that the youth customably and ordinarily use the same until they be of competent understanding and knowledge to perceive it in Latin. At what time they may at their liberty either use this Primer in English, or that which is by our authority likewise made in the Latin tongue, in all points correspondent unto this in English.

And furthermore, we straightly charge and command as well all and singular our subjects and sellers of books, as also all schoolmasters and teachers of young children, within this our realm and other our dominions, as they intend to have our favour and avoid our displeasure by the contrary, that immediately after this our said Primer is published and imprinted, that they, nor any of them, buy, sell, occupy, use, nor teach privily or apertly any other primer, either in English or Latin, than this now by us published ; which with no small study, travail, and labour, we have purposely made to the high honour and glory of Almighty God, and to the commodity of our loving and obedient subjects, and edifying of the same in godly contemplation and virtuous exercise of prayer.

Given at our Palace of Westminster, the 6th day of May, in the 37th year of our reign.


Comment: Very few young people in Anglican churches today know off by heart all three basics: the Creed, the Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer.

1 comment:

Mark Carroll said...

“Since Canon Law LXXXII of 1604, the Church of England had required "the Ten Commandments be set up on the East end of every Church and Chapel, where the people may best see and read the same, and other chosen sentences written upon the walls of the said Churches and Chapels, in places convenient." As was common in other parish churches in the colony, Christ Church's altarpiece contained the Decalogue as well as the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed. “

http://www.christchurch1735.org/architecture/altarpiece.html